It is essential for plants to absorb and metabolize sunlight. It is also essential for people to have exposure to the sun. However, people need to use caution when it comes to the amount of their exposure to the sun.

The relationship between sun exposure and health in people isn’t as simple as it is with plants. Aspects that influence how people metabolize sunlight is based on several factors:

  • Genes
  • Skin type
  • Time and duration of exposure
  • Location and altitude

Taking all these factors into account, researchers – such as those from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland – believe moderate sun exposure is highly heart healthy. These researchers believe the benefits far outweigh the risk of skin cancer. They caution however, that moderate sun exposure is the key for these health benefits.

Researchers have outlined ten exciting health benefits that come from moderate sun exposure.

1.     Boosts growth in children

The benefit of moderate exposure to sun appears to be especially true for infants. Studies reveal the amount of exposure in the first few months of a child’s life influences how tall the child grows. Many cultures recognize this fact and regularly expose their children to mild sun in order to boost both growth and height.

2.     Eases mild depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is caused by sunlight deprivation and is a form of depression most common during the winter months. It is also becoming more common in people who work long hours in office buildings and scarcely get direct exposed to direct sunlight. Research has shown increases levels of natural antidepressants in the brain are produced by moderate sun exposure. These antidepressants help relieve SAD and other forms of mild depression. The brain will naturally produce more serotonin (a mood-lifting chemical) on sunny days than are dark and gloomy days.

3.     Enhances immune system

Moderate sun exposure has wide ranging benefits for your immune system. It helps to suppress an overactive immune system; making sunlight and effective treatment for autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis. Additionally, white blood cells increase with sun exposure. These cells play a key role in fighting a variety of diseases and in defending the body against infection. Research has shown moderate sun exposure is very beneficial for your immune system.

4.     Heals some skin disorders

A month-long study of outdoor sunbathing therapy proved to be successful in significantly clearing symptoms of psoriasis – with 84% of the test subjects showing improvement. Moderate sunlight has also been proved to promote healing of other skin disorders, such as acne, eczema, jaundice and other fungal skin infections. It is important to note researchers agree sun exposure has a beneficial effect on some skin disorders, they caution this treatment should be conducted under medical supervision.

5.     Improves bone health

Doctors and researchers have long known that vitamin D intensifies the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body, thereby strengthening bone structure. Sunlight is an amazing source of vitamin D. New research has shown that there is also a direct relationship between bone density and vitamin D3. When sunlight hits human skin, it manufactures vitamin D, and during this process the fat-soluble vitamin D3 is also formed. Vitamin D3 regulates the absorption of calcium. Higher levels of vitamin D3 in the blood reduces the risk of bone fractures of all types. For this reason, moderate sun exposure is very important in older adults to maintain bone health.

6.     Improves brain function

In addition to benefiting bone health and increasing calcium levels, Vitamin D from sunlight has been linked to other functions within the human body, including functions within the brain. One study from the University of Cambridge determined the cognitive ability of men and women over the age of 65 was greatly reduced among test subjects with low vitamin D levels. Other researchers concluded sunlight stimulated nerve cell growth in the hippocampus area of the brain. This area is responsible for forming, storing and organizing memories.

7.     Lowers blood pressure

Researchers from the University of Edinburg determined moderate sunlight on human skin provided benefits in addition to vitamin D. A compound called nitric oxide is released into blood vessels when sunlight touches the skin. Nitric oxide helps to lower blood pressure. Lowering blood pressure reduces the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

8.     Improves sleep quality

The pineal gland in the brain produces the hormone melatonin. This hormone makes us drowsy and helps us fall asleep. When our eyes detect sunlight in the morning, sending that message to our brain, the pineal gland stops producing melatonin. When our eyes detect darkness and send that message to our brain, the pineal gland stops producing melatonin. These messages and the regulated release of melatonin produce a circadian rhythm. If, however, your brain does not get the “morning” message, the brain will produce too much melatonin, and this may lead to poor quality sleep. Exposure to moderate sunlight early in the day will help create a healthy circadian rhythm and help you sleep soundly.

9.     Lessens Alzheimer’s symptoms 

Maintaining a regular circadian rhythm has shown to be very beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients. One study found Alzheimer’s patients exposed to sunlight from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., followed by darkness at night, showed improvement in some aspects of the disease. These patients also scored higher on mental exams. Exposure to bright light of any type during the day — compared to dim indoor lighting – lessened agitation, nighttime wakefulness and depression among Alzheimer’s patients.

10.    Reduces risk of certain cancers

Overexposure to sun is a major cause of skin cancer. However, moderate sun exposure increases your levels of vitamin D, and a deficiency of vitamin D has been shown to increase your risk of many cancers, especially breast and colon cancer. Researchers observed the incidence of colon cancer was nearly three times higher in New York than in New Mexico with its abundance of sunshine. Additional research has since shown vitamin D supplementation produce a dramatic 60% drop in risk of developing any form of cancer. This confirms the benefits of vitamin D and sun exposure in reducing risk of cancer.

The final word:

Sunshine does have its benefits – however it is still the number one cause of skin cancer. Dermatologists and other medical experts recommend no more than 15 to 20 minutes of daily direct sunlight daily for a healthy adult. Then apply sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30. And it is important to remember your skin color, how much skin you are exposing to the sun, and where you live will affect how much vitamin D benefit you will produce.

Make having fun outdoors in the sun a significant part of your daily activities. Having fun is good for you and being outdoors is good for you – so it just naturally follows that having fun outdoors is especially good for you!

  • Make it fun and enjoyable!
  • Make it memorable!
  • Make it an adventure!
  • Make it safe and pleasant!

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